April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

South Hill, VA (4/5/21) – In Virginia last year, distracted driving caused 17,000 accidents, including 120 fatalities and 9,000 injuries. The good news is accidents due to distracted driving have been on a decline over the past three years. Lawmakers have noticed and finally made driving with hand-held devices not lawful as of January 1, 2021. A texting while driving conviction carries a $125 fine for the first offense and a $250 fine for second or subsequent offenses. Overall, texting and cell phone use account for fewer than 10 percent of distractions.

From the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles website, “The three basic types of distracted driving are manual, visual and cognitive, and all three increase crash risk. During visual distraction, drivers’ eyes are off the road, such as looking at another accident or the dashboard. A driver’s hand is off the wheel during manual distraction, such as eating or handling an object. Cognitive distraction poses the highest risk because the driver’s mind is off driving. When a driver’s brain is overloaded by two cognitive tasks, such as driving and talking on the phone, drivers make the phone conversation the main task and driving becomes the secondary task, without recognizing it. Driving is severely impaired as a secondary task, and the impairment can last a long time.”

The average weight of a vehicle is 4,000 pounds. That kind of weight moving 60-70 miles per hour is the reason so many deaths and injuries occur. Janet Kaiser, Emergency Department Director at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital (VCU Health CMH) explains, “Being located right off I-85 and near the Route 58 corridor, we see a lot of trauma patients come in from motor vehicle accidents. One life is too many to lose. Please make driving the top priority and save lives.”

If someone is in an accident in Southside Virginia, they have access to VCU Health CMH. The emergency department has 16 private rooms including two large trauma rooms and staff and physicians capable of initiating care for most injuries. Visit vcu-cmh.org for more information.